The blood test for Alzheimer's ensures faster diagnoses and high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

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With almost seven million Americans currently alive Alzheimer’s disease – and 13 million people are expected to suffer from the disease by 2050 – early diagnosis and treatment are more urgent than ever.

To help address this, Mayo Clinic has announced a new, non-invasive blood test that detects a protein in the brain that signals Alzheimer’s disease.

The goal, doctors say, is for this test to provide a convenient, less invasive alternative to traditional diagnostic methods.

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Fox News Digital spoke with Dr. Alicia Algeciras-Schimnich, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the Mayo Clinic Rochester in Minnesota, on the new test and what it means for Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

“This is the first blood test for Alzheimer’s disease offered at Mayo Clinic Laboratories,” said Algeciras-Schimnich, who led the clinical validation study to gauge how well the test performed.

A new, non-invasive blood test detects a protein in the brain that signals Alzheimer’s disease, Mayo Clinic (not pictured) announced. (iStock)

“Although there are other commercial blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease, what is unique about our test is its high accuracy.”

How does it work?

One of the hallmark features of the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaque containing a protein known as beta-amyloid.

“The pTau217 test assesses the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain by measuring the amount of phosphorylated Tau 217 (p-Tau217) in the test sample,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.

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The accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain can also be evaluated by imaging techniques, such as PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, the doctor noted — but those methods have some limitations.

“The PET scan to evaluate beta-amyloid is expensive and not a widely available technology,” says Algeciras-Schimnich.

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group based in Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic has announced a new, non-invasive blood test to help determine whether patients have Alzheimer’s disease. (iStock)

“And CSF collection requires an invasive technique to remove spinal fluid, so it is not widely used either.”

The blood biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease serve as a non-invasive tool that can improve access for patients who need answers, she said.

How accurate is it?

In patients with symptoms of cognitive decline, the blood test has a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 96%.

“Sensitivity measures the test’s ability to correctly identify patients with the disease, while specificity measures the test’s ability to correctly identify people without the disease,” Algeciras-Schimnich explains.

“A blood-based test not only provides convenience, but could also help transform Alzheimer’s disease research.”

Patients undergoing the test are classified as positive or negative due to the presence of beta-amyloid accumulation.

“In a small number of patients, the test will not be able to distinguish between the presence or absence of beta-amyloid,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

Blood collection from woman

Patients undergoing the test are classified as positive or negative due to the presence of beta-amyloid accumulation. (iStock)

“These patients will require additional testing to determine if they are positive or negative for beta-amyloid accumulation.”

The test is deliberately designed to minimize the number of false positive results compared to other tests, the doctor said.

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“The test has been validated at Mayo Clinic through a rigorous quality process supported by scientific experts and clinicians,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

The test can currently be ordered by physicians through Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

Alzheimer's disease

Evidence of Alzheimer’s disease is seen on PET scans at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, March 2023. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo)

“Because it is a blood test, it requires blood collection by a phlebotomist, so anyone who is averse to blood should be aware of this,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

At this time, the test is only recommended for people aged 50 and over who have symptoms of mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia.

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“We don’t yet have enough data to support how the test performs in younger individuals,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

Michelle Rankine, PhD, a certified dementia practitioner in Texas, is not affiliated with the Mayo Clinic, but shared her comments on the test’s potential.

A PET scan in Washington, DC

The accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain can also be evaluated by imaging techniques, such as PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, the doctor noted — but those methods have some limitations. (Michael Robinson Chávez/The Washington Post)

“As the global burden of Alzheimer’s continues to rise, a blood-based test not only offers convenience, but could help transform Alzheimer’s research,” Rankine told Fox News Digital.

“This could make screening more efficient in preventing the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

For more health articles, visit www.foxnews/health

“This innovation addresses a growing need and could accelerate the development of new treatments, improve patient evaluation and care, and potentially even enable early intervention before symptoms worsen,” Rankine added.

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